This handout photo released by the Colombia Presidential Press Office, shows an aerial view of a portion of Mocoa, Colombia, Saturday, on 1 April 2017, after an avalanche of water from an overflowing river swept through the city as people slept. The incident triggered by intense rains left at least 100 people dead in Mocoa, located near Colombia's border with Ecuador. Photo: Cesar Carrion / Colombian Presidential Press Office via AP

By Christine Armario
2 April 2017

MOCOA, Colombia (Associated Press) – The Latest on the deadly river overflow in southern Colombia (all times local):

12:15 p.m.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says that at least 207 people have been killed in a water and mud avalanche in the country's south, but the death toll is changing "every moment."

Santos spoke Sunday in his latest update on the tragedy.

Authorities say another 200 people including many children were injured and just as many remain unaccounted for amid the destruction in the city of Mocoa.

Heavy rains sent floodwaters, mud and debris surging through homes in the city around midnight Friday. That left the streets covered Saturday morning in thick sand, mud and tree limbs from the rivers and forest that surround the community.

People are digging through the ruins, salvaging what they can of their possessions and looking for their missing loved ones.

Earlier

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) – A grim search for the missing resumed at dawn Sunday in southern Colombia after surging rivers sent an avalanche of floodwaters, mud and debris through a small city, killing at least 200 people and leaving many more injured and homeless.

People pried through piles of rocks and wooden planks that entombed homes. Streets were covered in thick sand, mud and tree limbs from the rivers and rainforest that surround the city. There was little drinking water and no power, which forced authorities to suspend the search and rescue effort during the night.

The National Disaster Agency said Sunday that the death toll was at 200, with another 200 injured, but authorities conceded it could easily go higher because many people were still unaccounted for and dozens were airlifted to hospitals in other cities and were in critical condition. Bodies were being placed in a temporary morgue where three teams of medical examiners were working around the clock to swiftly identify the remains.

Authorities and residents in the city tucked between mountains along Colombia's southern border spent Saturday tending to victims, trying to find homes on streets reduced to masses of rubble and engaged in a desperate search to locate loved ones who disappeared in the dark of night. Authorities expect the death toll to rise. […]

President Juan Manuel Santos traveled to Mocoa and declared the city a disaster zone Saturday. The Air Force transported 19 patients to a city farther north and said 20 more would be evacuated soon. Medicine and surgical supplies were being sent to the city as the area's regional hospital struggled to cope with the magnitude of the crisis.

Herman Granados, an anesthesiologist, said he worked throughout the night on victims. He said the hospital didn't have a blood bank large enough to deal with the number of patients and was quickly running out of its supply.

Some of the hospital workers came to help even though their own relatives remained missing.

"Under the mud," Granados said, "I am sure there are many more."

Santos blamed climate change for triggering the avalanche, saying that the accumulated rainfall in one night was almost half the amount Mocoa normally receives in the entire month of March. With the rainy season in much of Colombia just beginning, he said local and national authorities need to redouble their efforts to prevent a similar tragedy. [more]

The Latest: Death toll rises to 207 in Colombia avalanche

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